Fourth of July

 Today, the hate of the world 
 weighs heavy,
 and I must remain 
 a poet,
 close my wide eyes 
 to fireworks,
 keep mostly to myself this
 unacceptable sadness,
 renderings of a split too recent, still
 too red,
 still too Confederate and Union,
 still too
 Democrat and Republican, still too
 bleeding intolerance.
 It’s complicated – it’s not that I 
 loathe America.
 I think it’s the heaviness
 of decades,
 iron infused rage leaking into 
 every conversation,
 anthems slicing us 
 to bits,
 mixing us up in a thick, 
 coagulating bag,
 shaken, breathless against plastic,
 poured back
 on the table for piecing together. 
 No slogan
 can mend us now, you see,
 no pledge
 heal what crusts beneath a weakly
 bandaged country, 
 no quotes, 
 no t-shirts, no license plates
 can cover 
 the acute infection of still 
 contending flags.
 Don’t believe me?
 Look around.
 Examine our scarred nation yourself.
 Hear curses 
 of hatted sign carriers, barn painters,
 slogan criers.
 Watch the way on the street we avoid each
 other’s eyes.
 We have made ourselves
 sick. Untreatable. 
 Sure, we can try a skin graph 
 or two.
 Clip and stitch the thin, angry skin that still
 connects us.
 But where is the sterilized needle 
 we need?
 What synthetic thread has power 
 to mend
 after hatred? And besides,
 someone forgot to knot 
 the end,
 their careful sewing quickly
 come undone.
 We have come undone. 
 We’ve fallen,
 ripped apart again, ungentle, one 
 frayed faction 
 at a time.
 -Katherine Gotthardt

Katherine Gotthardt

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, hails from the Northern Virginia/D.C. metro area. She considers herself a writer by nature and by trade, having begun writing for fun as soon as her mother helped teach her to read. An active part of the literary community, Katherine is current president and a founding member of Write by the Rails (WbtR), the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. She has been a Prince William County Poet Laureate nominee and was the winner of Inside Nova’s 2019 and 2020 Best of Prince William award in the category of author. Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World received a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Her children’s book, A Crane Named Steve, hit number one in its category on Amazon in 2019. Katherine took first place in the free verse category of Loudoun County Library Foundation’s 2020 Rhyme On poetry contest for her piece "Discussion Topic." The Prince William County Arts Council and Poet Laureate Circle awarded her the 2020 Outstanding Poetry Project Award for her leadership in Write by the Rails' Poems Around Town poetry installation. In 2021 she earned second place for "Aftermath" in a Poetry Society of Virginia national contest and a regional Seefeldt Award for Arts Excellence from the Prince William County Arts Council. While Katherine is well-known for her poetry, she also has established a solid reputation for writing articles, columns and short fiction. She is a full-time marketing writer for a government contracting company and is published in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has authored nine books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water, Bury Me Under a Lilac, Late April, A Crane Named Steve, Get Happy, Dammit and D.C. Ekphrastic: Crisis of Faith.
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